Chicago is supposedly named after the Native American word for a smelly onion that grew here. It’s our birthright to get a little stinky. Still, these places take it a bit too far.

Illustration for Jeffrey Manor

1. Jeffrey Manor

Illustrations: Oliver Munday

Source The Agri-Fine animal feed factory
What smells Fumes from storage tanks and processing vats—notably hydrogen sulfide, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by neighbors in June
Is it harmful? Sure is. Attorney General Lisa Madigan last year cited the plant for exceeding limits for noxious gas emissions that can cause respiratory illnesses. And the lawsuit alleges that a “rotten garbage” stench has lowered property values.


Illustration for Elston-Ashland-Armitage Industrial Corridor

2. Elston-Ashland-Armitage
Industrial Corridor

Source Horween Leather, cars on the Kennedy, idling Metra trains, the Chicago River, and a nearby garbage transfer station
What smells You name it: chemicals from Horween, car and train exhaust, general river stank, and, when the wind blows right (er, wrong), rotting trash
Is it harmful? Tannery chemicals? Not to the average passerby. Emissions? Sure. The rest? Just keep moving.


Illustration for West Loop

3. West Loop

Source Blommer Chocolate Company
What smells The putrid stench of . . . cocoa, sugar, and butterfat? (Which has plenty of fans.)
Is it harmful? Sort of. The EPA cited Blommer in 2005 and again last year for pumping out too much cocoa bean dust, which could cause asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments. But the smell itself isn’t likely to kill you.


Illustration for Little Village, near 31st from Kedzie to California

4. Little Village, near 31st from
Kedzie to California

Source Collateral Channel, off the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal
What smells Waste from sewer overflows and more than 100 years of industrial contamination
Is it harmful? You bet. The channel’s been tested by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago for high levels of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—chemicals released from burning coal, gas, garbage, and other organic material. Environmental and neighborhood groups are on the case and hope to contain the pollution.


Illustration for Grant Park

5. Grant Park

Source Portable toilets at the Chicago Marathon
What smells Uhhhh . . .
Is it harmful? Maybe to your PR (runnerspeak for “personal record”), but mostly it’s just PU. The toilet banks at the beginning and end of the race, which attracts 45,000 participants, tend to generate the longest lines, and as one seasoned marathoner says, the body has a way of “letting go” when the running stops.